Wednesday, 11 November 2009

[another] remembrance day

November 12th this year marks the eleventy-first birthday of my little grandmother.
[if you don't know what that means, consult your Tolkien]

the splendid word redoubtable describes her quite well. Grandmother survived typhus, cholera, the Russian Revolution, World War 1 and World War 11.

she also survived having us four wild cousins dumped on her for weeks on end during the summer holidays [truth be told only two of us were wild which meant grandmother was kept on her toes protecting the other two - no prizes for guessing to which camp i belonged. sigh].

she was also a woman of decision [a quality she passed on to her youngest daughter].

if you were given notice that the last train out was leaving your homeland in a scant hour's time, what would you take?

Grandmother packed up her children, a change of clothes each, a loaf of bread, a container of lard, the second-best silver [the good stuff she buried in the garden expecting to be back after the war]
her treasured sewing machine

imagine, my five-foot-nothing-in-her-socks [i.e. tiny] Grandmother schlepping her sewing machine across Europe to Germany.
waiting in Latvia for the Soviets to return would simply have guaranteed a one-way ticket to Siberia, where they'd already sent Grandfather having plucked him off the street on New Year's Eve 1940

in 1949 [after five years as 'displaced persons'] Grandmother and three of her five children [one had not survived infancy and the oldest was also a 'guest' of the Soviets] made it to Australia

for which i am grateful [even though i don't have a single heat-friendly gene in my body]
oh, and the sewing machine came too.
and is still in use.


  1. what an amazing woman, and such an incredible heritage you have India.

  2. grandmothers are priceless. mine shaped my world too. i am grateful. x

  3. Happy Elenventy first.

    The sewing machine is wonderful. No wonder you have a passion for textiles.

  4. What a treasure. Dig she ever get to go back and look for her best silver? Our grandmothers certainly grew up in times of great challenges. What survivors they were! I love your sewing machine. It stitches love, pluck, and strength.

  5. This is a beautiful memorial, India. Thanks for sharing the tale of such a brave survivor. She obviously left a profound mark on you.

  6. So how are we celebrating? Much too hot to sit under the party tree today....hmmm, even at 40C I might manage to bake some piragi...


  7. I just read Arija's post about her. She is truly an amazing woman. Many women of today would have sat down on the side of the road and cried. Your grandmother had such fortitude! You are blessed to be her grandchild and I'm sure you already know that!

  8. Such a legacy this beautiful sewing machine has! Lovely, lovely post.

    (I've popped over from Arija's blog)

  9. one can only imagine.....what a hero.

  10. wonderful story about an indomitable woman-- against all odds making them very tough to face the world and yet fiercely loving their family.

  11. When I think of your blog theres a picture in my mind divided into 4 quarters. India Flint the artist, alchemist and author in one quarter; Australian farm life and drought in the next; Daughter of Arija, garden wizard in another; and last but not, least Intriguing stories about Grandmother. I think the first post I read on this blog was about your grandmother carrying her sewing machine over the border and it's the story that brought me back to read more. Wonderful genes you have there India and so moving that you still have the sewing machine.

  12. these kinds of stories fill my heart with joy.

  13. thank you everybody ...for contributing to the celebration of grandmother's life by visiting and leaving your friendly notes. you'll be pleased to know we toasted her memory this evening in some very fine locally produced sparkling Pinot Noir, in just the same soft shade of apricot that Grandmama favoured for her silk bloomers!

  14. Oh India I love this post and I am so glad I got to read more about your grandma here. I started at your Mom's and came over and it was so worth it.

    When you think of it, it is so smart that your Grandma brought the sewing maching because she could make money with it.

    I have to admit I absolutely love your reference to Tolkein.

    Love Renee xoxo

  15. strength, love, connection.....most everything one could ask for....and maybe the detail on that machine.


  16. Your story touched me deeply and I am so very delighted that you kept the machine and use it to this day. I hope you have a daughter to pass on the sewing machine, along with the story of how it came to be in Australia.

    Have a wonderful weekend,

  17. all three of my children sew. my son sewed a pair of jeans at 13 just to prove that he could and the girls have been making their wardrobes by reconstructing thrift store clothes since they could thread a needle
    so i can be reasonably confident that the sewing machine will be cherished [and used] after i've become dust

  18. Sorry but did you just post polar bears and then delete it ??
    was about to comment...
    now having re read this post
    am just in awe
    of people's ability to survive

  19. you're quick, Twisted. it was penguins, but i ripped them out cos they wouldn't work on my screen. sigh. they must have run around to your side of the whirled instead.

  20. Beautiful to read how those strong genes where passed in the generations.

  21. A sewing machine to be treasured...and a story to admire...such resiliance...

  22. that is a coincidence - it is my birthday too! I think it is great that you still celebrate her day - to honour your ancestors is keep the spirit living, xD

  23. She was a scorpion like me. I have an old sewing machine like the one pictured but is missing some important parts I fear.
    Loved to read about your amazing grandmother and her journey through life.

  24. When I read what you and your mother wrote...I was left smiling. All of your grandmother's courage and love-LIVES! In all of you.